Values Amidst the Storm

“Culture guides the team in their everyday work. It’s the foundation on which people make decisions and take actions.”

The Start-Up Playbook by Rajat Bhargava and Will Herman


I took my first flight in over six months recently.  Headed to Orlando to speak at a conference, I booked a Delta flight connecting through Atlanta.  

Before I left, my husband said, “Make sure you have your mask on the whole time during the flight.  Delta has been blacklisting people for life if they refuse the keep their mask on.”  

As their CEO Ed Bastian said, “If you insist on not wearing a mask, then we insist you not fly Delta.” Delta don’t play.  

And neither was I going to risk not being able to fly on my favorite airline over keeping a mask on while in the air.  

It was evident throughout the experience that Delta wasn’t playing in every aspect of their flight experience safety.  Sanitizing wipes were handed out as you boarded. No more food and beverage service as usual- you get a plastic bag complete with a water bottle, napkin (a recycled one at that), cheese-its, and biscoff.  There’s another hand sanitizing wipe in that packet too.  The way they filter air through the cabins has changed as well as the way they clean and sanitize their planes.  It’s called the Delta CareStandard

But why does Delta do all this when it costs more money to do it this way in an airline industry that is fraught with more woes than almost all other industries because of the pandemic? On my flights of less than 1 hour each, couldn’t they just skip the food and beverage service and sighting safety reasons and over multiple flights save themselves a ton of money?  They were close to losing $100 million A DAY in March and $27 million A DAY in June. 

Well first of all, they are mandated to do some things, but in general, I think it is because Delta is governed by its Corporate Values.  

These values are: 

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Respect
  • Perseverance
  • Servant Leadership

They intertwine with the mission of “The work of an airline is, at its core, about connecting people with communities, with experience, and with each other.  Making connections is Delta’s mission…” 

Some things you see Delta doing show their commitment to their values because of the pandemic or what they’ve done pre-pandemic include:

  • Blocking middle seats through January (booking only 60% full), not to mention all the other Delta CareStandard actions.
  • Referring to their employees as, “Our family” 
  • Using the word “We” in much of their statements for example, “We- Delta’s employees, customers, and community partners…”

Delta isn’t perfect, but what they continually do pre and post-pandemic is seeking to live their corporate values through their behaviors, decisions, and actions.  And sometimes our true values are best seen when things are at their very worst. It’s why they consistently earn top awards and have recently taken the number one spot on the list of the best airlines in 2020. 

It’s why I’ll continue to fly Delta even if it costs a little bit more and even if I have to connect instead of flying direct.  And it is why Delta, even though it is in the midst of a massive storm, will come out better than before.  They are experiencing the opportunity of living out the value of perseverance here and now.


How is your company living out its values amidst the storm? 


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Mary Ila Ward